Pay The Right Price for Pots and Pans

Pay The Right Price for Pots and Pans
Shopping for pots and pans can be confusing. Some sets cost as little as $30, while others can run you as much as $2,000. With such a huge difference in price, you can't help but wonder if paying more means you'll actually be getting more. Here are a few tips to help you figure out which pots and pans are right for both your kitchen, and your wallet.

First, consider what material the piece is made from. Copper looks pretty and conducts heat the best, but unless you're a pro chef, it might not be worth it to pay over a thousand bucks for a top-of-the-line set.

Cast iron is really durable and great at cooking your food evenly. However, it's also heavy and tough to clean, which might not be appealing if you plan on using it a lot. The most popular aluminum options are coated in Teflon because it keeps food from sticking, but over time the pan's surface will peel and flake off into your food.

So, what are we left with? Stainless steel. his can be a great choice since it's affordable, sturdy and, no matter how many times you use it, it won't peel or rust. It's also great for browning and searing meat.

And while you're shopping, don't feel pressured to buy an entire set. If you're not going to doing anything too fancy, you only really need three pieces: A 2-quart saucepan for cooking rice, soup and sauce; astockpot for boiling water to make pasta or steamed vegetables; and a sauté pan that you can use to sear and sauté meats and vegetables, deep-fry chicken or even to make stir-fry dishes. The best part is, you can usually find deals on all three of these for around $150.

Regardless of what you choose, shop carefully -- sometimes, the numbers on the box can be deceiving. Some manufacturers will advertise a 10-piece set, but what you may not realize is that each lid counts as a piece.

Finally, don't look past the handles -- they matter, too. Plastic handles are the least reliable because they crack easily and can't be used in the oven if the temperature is over 350 degrees. Wooden handles are a decent middle-of-the-road option, as they're sturdy and will stay cool to the touch. However, you can't put them in the oven, or the dishwasher. So, if it's all around durability you want, metal handles can be a great choice. Just be sure to use a rubber grip or a potholder since they can heat up fast while cooking.

As you shop for pots and pans, remember these tips to help you buy the right piece for the right price. You'll find that you can heat up your cooking skills, without burning your budget.

10 Overhyped Kitchen Products
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Pay The Right Price for Pots and Pans -- Savings Experiment
Whether you're updating your appliances or planning a full remodel, seeing past the hype can be tough when everything looks so good.

Here are our nominations for the 10 most overhyped kitchen products and the smarter options that beat them.
Pro-Style Ranges: Viking claims its range "captures the professional performance of a commercial range and places it at your command and in your home." Yet our tests find that $4,000-plus pro-style ranges perform no better than cheaper, conventional models.

Smarter Option: Faux-pro-style ranges from mainstream manufacturers combine stainless-steel style, performance and reliability for thousands less.
Speed Cooking: Speed cooking combines microwaving with convection or baking and broiling to cut cooking time. But performance was spotty in our tests. Some foods came out great, while others were undercooked.

Smarter Option: Ovens and ranges with convection use a fan to circulate hot air, so you can bake and roast at lower temperatures for shorter times.
Steam Ovens & Ranges: Sharp claims that in its oven, "super-heated steam cooking melts away fat" and is "simplicity itself." Using the countertop model we tested was simple enough, as was a KitchenAid range with a steam option. But the built-in steam oven from Miele was less user-friendly. We also found that food cooked in some of those ovens had just as much fat after steaming as before.

Smarter Option: Skip them.
Multimedia Refrigerator: Side by sides with TVs and calendars promise to help you organize your life. Samsung says its Wireless ICE will help as your family "plans their schedules, leaves messages, posts pictures, watches TV, and shares meals." But none of the multimedia fridges we tested out-cooled the best conventional fridges.

Smarter Option: Buy a top-rated refrigerator and a capable flat-panel TV.
Turbocharged Dishwasher: Kenmore claims its TurboZone's spray jets blast "into every corner of dirty, baked-on dishes to get everything clean without soaking or scrubbing." But we found that most regular dishwashers do a very good job of cleaning dishes, even with baked-on food.

Smarter Option: Pick a cheaper dishwasher that blends top cleaning with quietness and shorter cycle times.
Appliance Drawers: These drawers are touted as flexible and stylish. Our tests of various models show that their lower storage capacity, efficiency and performance, coupled with their high prices, negate their perks.

Smarter Option: Choose a good French-door fridge for style and accessible storage. Run the rinse-only cycle on a regular dishwasher for small loads. Free up counter space with an over-the-range microwave.
Pricey Faucets & Sinks: American Standard gushes that its faucet "provides a lifetime of smooth handle operation," while Kohler claims its thick, 18-gauge stainless sinks provide "exceptional resistance to stains." We found few performance differences between the least and most expensive versions.

Smarter Option: Faucets in chrome or with physical vapor deposition finishes performed best regardless of price.
Trendy Counters: "Practical artwork" that requires "virtually no maintenance other than normal cleaning," heralds Trueform Concrete. Limestone is "velvety smooth" says another company. Our tests found concrete to be fragile and susceptible to scratches, chips and hairline cracks. As for limestone, our wear tests left it scratched and stained.

Smarter Option: If you crave the stone look, go for granite or quartz.
'Green' Flooring: Bamboo, cork and linoleum are all considered renewable alternatives to standard hardwood and vinyl flooring. But some in our reviews didn't hold up to the usual spills, scratches, dropped plates, and sunlight in a typical kitchen.

Smarter Option: Solid wood floors can be sanded and refinished several times, while plastic laminate and vinyl proved toughest overall.
Home Depot and Lowe's tout services that simplify kitchen remodeling process. But our surveys show that no one retailer was impressive for design help, product quality and price.

Smarter Option: Check our ratings for the stores with the attributes that matter most to you. Consider local independent stores and personal references as highly as any preconceived notions about price, quality and convenience.
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